Texas law enforcement beginning to round up House Democrats

Texas law enforcement can begin rounding up fugitive House Democrats immediately, as members of state law enforcement were deputized Thursday to track them down and bring them to the chamber.

It comes as the Texas Supreme Court cleared the way for their civil arrests after temporarily blocking a lower court order. Meanwhile, the Senate passed its version of the voting bill that's kept Democrats away, but it was delayed due to a 15-hour filibuster.

Standing for 15 straight hours talking about the Texas elections bill is no easy feat, but speaking to reporters outside of her Capitol office, State Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said she found inspiration.  

“I had a picture of my beloved dad in my drawer and I would look at it a couple of times when I'd get tired or weary," Alvarado said. "I had so much, so many testimonials from the disabled community, and I really focused a lot on them.” 

Alvarado knew going into an all-night filibuster at this early point in the special legislative session would not completely block the bill, which like previous versions bans drive-thru voting, 24-hour voting and further tightens the vote-by-mail process. But Alvarado said she believes it kept national attention on Texas and advanced the dialogue.  

“It’s expected, I knew, but I leave here knowing that I've done everything I can do," she said. 

In their push to restore confidence in the electoral system, Senate Republicans said they have listened to constituents and Democrats during the process. The bill would give partisan poll watchers more authority, but one tweak requires them to get a training manual. Another addition to the bill allows voters to fix mistakes on absentee ballots online.  

“This bill has gotten more input from the disability rights community. We want to make sure folks have the protections they need, and we're not putting things in place that bad actors can use to cheat," said the bill's author, Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola. "Common sense reforms for Texas elections, that's all this has ever been."    

Across the hall, the House still does not have enough members to take up any bills. District judges in Harris County Thursday granted an order protecting 45 absent House Democrats from being civilly arrested, but that was shot down by the Texas Supreme Court later in the day. 

Reacting to the action, Gov. Abbott tweeted "The Dems have filed some of the most embarrassing lawsuits ever seen. Time for them to get to the Capitol and do the job they were elected to do."    

In a statement, Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, who sought those protections from himself and fellow Democrats said “Instead of trying to calm the situation and find ways to peacefully resolve the situation, Texas Republicans continue to add more fuel to this fire. We will not be deterred."

GOP lawmakers in the Capitol hoped the warrants would be enough to compel Democrats to come back.  

"It's a little frustrating, but you know, everybody's got to do their thing, and we're all going to answer to the voters ultimately.  And so that's good. That's how it's supposed to be. The voters will have the final say in this," Hughes said. 

A former House member, Alvarado said she would hate to see fellow Democrats get arrested.  

“People do what they feel that they need to do. Whatever they feel is, is their fight and how they want to do it," she said. "This was mine today.”

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